From Here On, Monsters by Elizabeth Bryer
The craft of accurately translating another’s work, of getting inside the head of the creator and being as faithful to the original piece as possible, is where this book by debut author Elizabeth Bryer starts. And Bryer knows what she’s talking about, having translated a number of literary works including Blood of the Dawn, Claudia Salazar Jiménez’s Americas Narrative Prize-winning debut.
An exploration of the power of words to enhance the human experience, as well as the dehumanising effect bureaucratic legalese can have on our ability to connect emotionally with our neighbours, this book has a big idea at its core. The idea is, essentially, that if certain words were withdrawn from use, we’d lose the ability to name those feelings, and once those feelings became unnameable, our ability to actually feel them or even recognise them would also diminish.
Cameron is an antiquarian bookseller who is working part-time on an art project that becomes more sinister and surreal the further into it she goes. Meanwhile, the real art – an ancient codex written by a genius called Szilard – is being translated by a young man back at the bookshop. The further he goes with the translation, the more it becomes apparent that the codex is either predicting, or perhaps creating, some of the strange things that are happening in the broader world. Monsters can be heard foraging outside doors. Voices and sounds waft down from the empty rooftop. Strangers become friends but then fade into the background before disappearing altogether. Words start vanishing from newspapers, journalists are given directives not to use certain phrases, and forgetfulness seems to settle over the general populace.
If you like your books experimental and slightly on the noir-ish side, then this book is exactly what you’ve been looking for.